Scottish researchers have found a way to make cancer cells get “addicted” to self-destruction. The significant technique development, called Mito-prime could drastically improve the effectiveness of cancer drugs.
Scientists from the the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, which is run by Cancer Research UK and closely linked to Glasgow University developed the technique while they were finding ways to kill off cancer cells. Specifically, they were looking at BH3-mimetics, a very promising new class of cancer drugs designed to kill tumor cells. BH3-mimetics target a group of proteins that help keep cancer cells alive.
These drugs are not yet available for clinical practice, but they’re in the late stages of clinical trials, and they’re showing some good potential. What the Glasgow researchers did is to make sure the proteins still supply the cancer with nutrients, but they also intoxicate the cancer cells. The lead author of the paper, Dr Stephen Tait, said:
“We have developed a new way to make any cell type sensitive to BH3-mimetic treatment. We term this method mito-priming. Cells in this state are very sensitive to inhibition of protective BCL-2 function by BH3-mimetics, such that they die within a few minutes of drug addiction.”
He then added:
“Mito-priming can be used to rapidly screen for new BH3-mimetics and other anti-cancer drugs, and should improve ways to kill cancer cells. It can also be used to rapidly define the potency and specificity of BH3-mimetics. Finally, the technique will allow us to understand how drug resistance occurs thereby allowing us to prevent this from happening in the first place.
“There is currently a lot of interest in targeting BCL2 proteins in the fight against cancer and there will be new therapies emerging in the future. We are hopeful our new method of mito-priming can be used as a platform to discover new drugs to target BCL-2 proteins.”